Obituary: Garry Moore

Thomas Garrison Morfit (Garry Moore), comedian and television presenter: born Baltimore, Maryland 31 January 1915; twice married (two sons); died Hilton Head, South Carolina 28 November 1993.

THE DIMINUTIVE Garry Moore, with his crew cut, bow tie and easygoing personality, was one of the pioneer hosts of American television. At one time he was its highest-paid performer.

Born Garrison Morfit, he worked for various radio stations as sports commentator, newsreader and comedy writer before going to Chicago to join the variety series Club Matinee as a 22-year-old comedian. He soon launched a contest, offering dollars 50 to the listener who could give him a better name. After three years on the show, the name Garry Moore was sufficiently well known for NBC-Radio to sign him as host of the musical quiz Beat the Band. In 1942 he became the star of a six-days-a-week morning show. It was called The Show Without a Name until he launched another contest, and a listener won dollars 500 for rechristening it Everything Goes.

In 1943 NBC, needing a replacement for Abbott and Costello's radio series, teamed Moore with Jimmy Durante. Moore's erudition contrasted ideally with Durante's East Side malapropisms. The show's writers - of which Moore was one - also played up the two-decade gap between the co-stars' birth dates. Every time Garry scored with a gag, Jimmy would say with paternal pride, 'Dat's my boy who said dat]'

In 1947 the partnership was amicably dissolved when Moore decided to go out on his own. After various radio jobs, he turned, in 1950, to 'this strange new contraption, TV'. The Garry Moore Show was a five-mornings-a-week melange of sketches, music and conversation. Despite a low budget, it was sufficiently offbeat to attract such guests as Victor Borge, Carl Sandburg, Melvyn Douglas, Hoagy Carmichael, James Michener, Buster Keaton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gene Krupa and Louis Armstrong. Weekly auditions led to the booking of the then-unknown Johnny Carson, Harry Belafonte, Dick Van Dyke and, in 1956, Carol Burnett. She auditioned on a Tuesday, after which Moore told her 'You're on this Friday.' The Garry Moore Show ran for eight years and 1,065 editions.

The following autumn Moore began a weekly Tuesday night series, also called The Garry Moore Show. During its second season, Carol Burnett was a huge success. Moore later invited her to be on the show every week, and she stayed for three years. In her autobiography, Burnett wrote: 'That was the beginning of the most durable positive professional relationship I've ever had. He is loved by everyone who worked with him.'

CBS-TV loved Moore too; he was also the host of their long-running panel game I've Got A Secret. His Tuesday night show won two Emmy awards, and was still getting high ratings when he gave it up in 1964. 'I'm tired,' he said. 'I've been in front of the cameras since the days of silent TV.'

In 1966 he was coaxed back in a highly touted series called, inevitably, The Garry Moore Show. Although designed to draw viewers away from NBC's high-rated Bonanza, it received bad reviews and poor ratings. Carol Burnett made a memorable guest appearance, other strong editions followed, but the show was cancelled and Moore went into virtual retirement.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all